Breeding of indigenous breeds in danger of being lost to farming – Janez Smrtnik’s farm
- Datum objave 28.09.2021
Janez Smrtnik’s farm (Kovk Farm) is as a mountain farm with pastures in the mountains. It is a role model for how, with not much financial incentive, to not only maintain but create a good basis for the future of the family and jobs when his four children grow up. Kovk Farm is an organic farm expanding at the elevation of 750 to 1,100 metres. They decided to breed indigenous breeds as they are most suitable for this mountain environment. They were guided by the focus to maintain our cultural heritage which includes our indigenous breeds of domestic animals. The products are cultivated, processed and used in the local environment, and sold to local consumers and tourist facilities. In this way, organic breeding does not put any strain on the environment.
“With such manner of breeding and the marketing of our production, a story is essential. If there is no suitable story behind out meat, consumers treat it like any other meat from any other place and type of breeding. Therefore, we must put in more effort for our manner of breeding, our farm, our meat to be recognised. This, however, brings high costs. For this reason, we could use more substantial financial support; in certain EU Member States, financial support is more substantial.”(Janez Smrtnik)
We breed indigenous breeds (Cika cattle, Jezersko-Solčava sheep, Krškopolje pig, Drežnica goat and Styrian hen) and not so-called intensive breeds. Therefore, production is small scale, resulting in partial loss of income. The funds we obtain through the measures of the Rural Development Programme for the 2014–2020 period make the situation easier. We are glad that the government and the public understand and help us with some form of compensation, more specifically with the measures of the RDP 2014–2020. Public awareness is very important. Even within the scope of other activities such as tourism, breeding local breeds is important. City people need a break in pristine nature with pristine, healthy and locally produced food – we provide all this in these mountains.
Characteristic of the Jezersko-Solčava sheep is that they are fertile all year round, which cannot be encountered in most other breeds. The average natality is 1.5 to 1.8 lambs a year. The probability for twins is 10–50 per cent, depending also on food. Ewes are around 65 cm tall, while rams are 10 cm taller. A sheep’s weight depends on food, but it is between 60 and 80 kg, with rams being heavier, i.e. between 80 and 100 kg. Their legs are firm, their backs are strong, long and muscular. Sheep are very well adapted to pasture on mountain pastures. In the past, sheep had to have a characteristic black spot around their eyes (glasses or a tear), but later, most breeders picked sheep without such a spot. Nowadays, breeders are aware again of the meaning of such a spot for the recognition of the Jezersko-Solčava sheep. Sheep are usually sheared twice a year, i.e. in April and October, with breeders obtaining around 2 kg of wool per sheep. The said characteristics of the Jezersko-Solčava sheep are important for crossbreeding on holdings.
Our aim is to keep breeding, provide consumers with healthy food, and to create conditions with revenue for the farm to be modernised, for a subsidiary on-farm activity of own meat processing to be registered on the farm in the future, and for taking up tourist activity on the farm. Our aim is also to provide more jobs on the farm, possibly for the entire family. To sell what we produce and process on our home yard, meaning to register a subsidiary on-farm activity of meat processing and tourism on the farm.
Initially, we prepared and submitted the application with the help of a farm advisory service from Kranj. This was followed by daily work and care for our animals, and seasonal preparation of fodder, from mowing, storage of hay from our own meadows, etc., to the sale of animals. Our subsidiary activity is the breeding of breeding animals, i.e. rams of the Jezersko-Solčava breed. We have an alternative ram test station. In this field, we collaborate with the Biotechnical Faculty of the University of Ljubljana. At the test station, we try to preserve the purity of the breed by professionally selecting the best ram. This is to ensure that the best production and breed characteristics of our Jezersko-Solčava breed are preserved. Animals are selected in the natural environment of the steep mountain pastures of Jezersko, where we carefully select the best and most beautiful male lambs from parents with the best breeding potential. Animals show their character in their natural environment, in difficult living conditions. Rams are used to moving around in nature and are capable of the efforts they will bear in their new environment as breeding rams. In this way, our customers get superb breeding animals for further breeding.
Animals that are suitable for slaughter are taken to a slaughterhouse. We market the fresh meat ourselves, as we have registered the activity of fresh meat sales, and through a lamb producer group. Our desire is for our organically produced meat to be marketed as meat with an organic certificate and not as meat from conventional breeding within the producer group, which is what we focus on. We are also part of the so-called ARK Farm Network, and the status of an ARK farm for us is the recognition of the indigenousness of breeding animals, and particularly of a special role of such breeding in the preservation of biodiversity in Slovenian husbandry.
At this point, I would like to point out that, in addition to us being included in the AEC measure as a mountain organic farm, we are also included in several other measures of the RDP 2014–2020, i.e.: LFA, Animal welfare and Organic farming.
Currently, there is one regularly employed person on the farm and the farm has the potential to further develop. The important outcome is of course to keep breeding indigenous breeds, preserve the farm and create conditions for the farm to provide jobs for our children when they grow up.
Under the AEC measure, I have also undergone a six-hour training programme in the field of agri-environment-climate topics in relation to the operation “Breeding of local breeds in danger of being lost to farming”, and I have prepared an activity programme for the agricultural holding.
The said operation includes 50 sheep.
Under the Organic farming measure, I obtain a certificate of organic production and processing each year. Animals are bred in accordance with organic farming regulations, and to this end, I have undergone a six-hour training programme and comply with all other requirements.
32 hectares are included in the Organic farming measure.
Janez Smrtnik, Kovk Farm,
Spodnje Jezersko 14
Phone: 00386 41 368 903
Photo copyright: ČZD Kmečki glas d. o. o. and Janez Smrtnik